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tv   Frontline  PBS  September 29, 2011 3:00am-4:00am EDT

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>> tonight, two stories in this special edition of frontline. first... >> a mosque-- 600 feet from where the world trade center stood. >> you're going to put a monument to the terrorists at the site of 9-11? >> behind the controversy. >> they're on a mission from allah, and they need to accomplish it. it will be mecca on the hudson. >> ...behind the outrage... >> never forget! >> this was about helping my community find a place to pray. little did i know what i was in store for. >> the man behind the ground zero mosque. >> this is the most famous building in the world.
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>> sharif never knew that he had to apologize for 9-11. >> and in our second story tonight... >> milot is a town that we are trying to make into a cultural and historical mecca. >> this man has a vision for haiti. >> you're building this big restaurant to accommodate hundreds of tourists every day. >> are you trying to say i'm crazy? somebody's got to start somewhere. >> adam davidson, of npr's planet money, with an optimistic report from haiti. these two stories on this special edition of frontline >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major funding is provided by
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the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. and by reva and david logan. committed to investigative journalism as the guardian of the public interest. additional funding is provided by the park foundation. dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. and by the frontline journalism fund, supporting investigative reporting and enterprise journalism. >> i'm away from my office. please leave a name, a message, and i'll get back to you. thank you. >> david. hey, buddy. it's sharif. i hope you're well. i love you man, and... >> narrator: sharif el-gamal is a manhattan property developer. >> i'm a new yorker from brooklyn.
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i'm not a community activist. i'm not a community leader. i'm not an islamic academic. this isn't something that i've been studying. i'm a new yorker who is a real- estate junkie, who has... you know, that's who i am. my brother, i have to be there before 1:00, so i need you to get there as quickly as possible, please. >> before 1:00? >> yeah. >> oh, my god. >> i have to do salaat at jummah. >> oh, yes, yes. >> are you muslim? >> yeah. >> as salaam alaikum. >> wa alaikum salaam. >> so join me. park the car and come. >> narrator: el-gamal wants to build a mosque and an islamic community center on park place, two blocks from ground zero. he has named the project park 51. it's better known as the ground zero mosque. it's the most famous building in the world. it might be more famous than the world trade center. >> narrator: until september 11, 2001, the building housed the
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burlington coat factory, a discount department store. the ground floor is now a prayer hall used by wall street commuters and local shopkeepers. the upper floors have been derelict since the attacks. >> we are about to enter into the pit of the belly known as the ground zero mosque. children, close your eyes! surprise! a vacant building. it needs a lot of work. so here we're on the second floor, and this is all an empty space, really. >> narrator: moments after the second plane hit the south tower, its undercarriage crashed through the roof and several floors of the burlington coat factory. >> it came through here, ended up here, okay?
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so this is the top floor. and also came down here into the spot where we were below. this project had nothing to do with ground zero. it had nothing to do with 9-11. i just thought about how valuable the real-estate would be once everything is built. i never associated my faith or islam with the horrific events of 9-11. >> right through here. >> it was 8:52 in the morning and the telephone rang and it was peter, and he said "dad, we're on the airplane," he said, "and we've been hijacked." he said, "it's really getting
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bad," i started to say something, and then he said, "oh, my god. oh, my god. oh, my god." i heard somebody scream. and we turned around and we looked at the television and we saw that plane coming in and we saw it hit. and we both knew that it was peter's plane. >> the plane that hit the first towers, hit my wife's tower, flew right over our apartment. i'm a pilot and i knew something was awry. and i looked, and i looked this way and this way, and i couldn't tell anything. i'm like, "what the heck?" and then someone from the street yelled, "oh, my god, a plane has just hit the world trade center! and i yelled back down to her from my balcony, i says, "are you kidding me? my wife works there." my wife was vaporized. she was directly in the path of the first plane that hit at 8:46. >> my brother was found in the rubble of the north tower.
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we did receive sean's torso, parts of his leg and part of his head, separated. he was found with 25 to 30 civilians, so i know that he must have been offering some assistance to those civilians in there and that gives me comfort because he was doing his job. >> what nobody wants to talk about really is that a lot of that ash that came down-- this is... this was... okay? >> i never realized the importance of having some remains. they recovered a small bone from peter's leg. and i held it in my hand. not very much. but it was part of peter. and he was my son. and it was like a... a very important thing to have that. >> we were so fortunate to
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recover most of sean. but we also got to know so many family members that never recovered any part of their loved one, never had a cemetery to visit. their cemetery is ground zero. the place i go to remember sean and to look at is like a little spot in the sky where i picture he made his way up to in the north tower. i can go to the corner of the burlington coat factory and i can look right at that spot. i can see the construction. it's there. i mean, there is even a part of the plane that hit that building. that's ground zero. >> so, the prophet mohammed's life gives us guidance in every sphere of human endeavor. every sphere of human endeavor. >> when i was born, my first name was alexander and i used to go to church. >> the resources and the possibility to make a positive change. >> my mother, god rest her soul,
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was polish catholic. two immigrants meet in new york from opposite sides of the world, you know? egypt, muslim. polish, catholic. new york-- plop! >> narrator: there were always tensions in the home around religion. soon after el-gamal's parents split, his mother died. he went to live with his father. >> i had a very rebellious teenage and early manhood stage of my life, and after september 11 there was a change brewing within me as an individual. >> narrator: el-gamal got into real-estate and rediscovered islam, his father's faith. >> what i want to take you to is where my journey with my faith started in new york city. my journey started right here at 1214 warren street.
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it was packed. people were praying on top of each other. i mean, my head would be in the legs of the man in front of me. that's how-- we were packed like sardines. you know, i didn't feel proud of this mosque. they had been there for close to almost 40 years, in this neighborhood. right here, four blocks from the world trade center. the building ended up getting sold and they ended up getting evicted. and they ended up underneath that 20-20, in a basement, in a bar. the majority of them were immigrants. coming back with a very specific mindset. afraid to do anything. salaam alaikum. how are you my brother? i made a promise to god and i made a promise to myself that i'm going to help this community, with whatever skills i have, in buying a building or getting a real space. and then i started finding buildings.
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and i got nowhere. every time that we would get close to something, it just wouldn't work out, you know, they would be afraid to make a decision. and i got so frustrated at that point with these guys. i got so frustrated. i was angry with these elders who drove my community into a basement. i bring in this young man and i mark out a grid and i tell him your job specifically is to help find a building so that we can build a mosque. about a month of him working for me now, he comes running up to me and he says, "i got one." there's this building on park place between west broadway and church, and he started showing it to me and i go, "wow." i go, "that's interesting." i go, "that's a big building." >> narrator: el-gamal acquired the site on park place with american finance from a mix of hindu, jewish, christian and muslim investors. >> we've acquired two pieces of real-estate that are contiguous
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to each other. and one parcel, i was going to build condos on. and the other building i was going to give to the community to build a mosque and a smaller community center. >> narrator: now that el-gamal had a site for his mosque, he needed a leader for it. he had grown to admire the imam of a small mosque in lower manhattan: imam feisal abdul rauf. >> imam feisal now started introducing me to another side of islam. >> narrator: imam feisal belonged to the mystical sufi form of islam. his writings promoted america as a model for muslims worldwide. most muslim americans had never heard of him, but he was an established figure in interfaith circles. >> i had never experienced such a spiritual khutba. it was like a college professor
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was speaking to me about my faith. >> narrator: el-gamal invited imam feisal to lead his mosque. the imam had a bigger vision. >> he said, "sharif, what if we were to build the whole thing as a community center?" ( applause ) >> thank you. the objective of our community center was to be a rallying point, was to be a place where people could get to know about each other, where people would get to know about each other's religions. we want muslims to learn about christianity and judaism. we want members of other faith traditions to know about islam. >> and i'd like to introduce to you the future young women who are going to uphold justice for us. >> narrator: imam feisal's wife, daisy khan, runs the american society for muslim advancement. >> we were trying to be proactive and create a counter- momentum against extremism so that we could give voice to moderate muslims.
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>> narrator: what feisal proposed was a $100 million cultural center named cordoba house after the spanish city symbolic to some scholars of religious tolerance under muslim rule. el-gamal went to see if the project would be welcome in new york. >> we ultimately want to build a community center, right? though it's going to be islamic with muslim values and heritage, it's going to be open for all people, it's going to be a community center. we got the temperature of new york, from the local elected officials, to the politicians, to the community leaders, to the community board. all around, the light was green. >> narrator: el-gamal knew he would struggle to finance his original condo project. in 2009, credit was tight. a community center, however, could attract public financing. >> i can't get a construction loan to do the condo project immediately. i figure, what's the risk of
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really exploring this idea? what's the risk? what's the risk? ( applause ) >> narrator: the groundswell against the project began online with an activist named pamela geller. >> you didn't hear about the ground zero mosque in the media. how'd you hear about the ground zero mosque? who said... >> we're very appreciative that there is an effort put forth by people like pamela geller. >> we the families would have to be fighting... >> the people that proposed this mosque, they never held a forum to reach out to the families at large. >> and i'd like to introduce my colleague, my partner in crime, the other half of the dynamic duo, robert spencer. ( applause ) >> narrator: geller and spencer are co-founders of the pressure- group stop the islamization of america. >> when the muslim armies rolled into jerusalem in 636, one of the first things they did was begin construction of the al- aqsa mosque and where did they
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put it? on the temple mount. >> narrator: geller and spencer popularized a concept that would later define the controversy: the "victory mosque." >> it's a tendency in islamic history to mark the sign of a jihad triumph with a victory mosque. on september 11, 2001, they took down the twin towers. now, they are trying to mark their victory. >> narrator: as geller marshaled her forces, el-gamal took the project to the lower manhattan community board, to seek its vote of approval. ( applause ) the community board hearing was open to the public. the room was packed. >> calm down! >> what i saw for the next four hours was the scariest thing i've ever seen in my life. >> ...and the fact that i'm a muslim. ( applause ) >> i'm a pretty brave guy, okay?
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i've never-- i sweat-- my suit. my suit was wet. i saw this woman and this man that were kind of orchestrating this. >> pamela and i went to that. and as it turned out, she was one of the first people called to speak. i think they didn't know who she was. >> this is humiliating that you would build a shrine to the very ideology that inspired the attacks of 9-11. ( cheers and applause ) >> narrator: in the crowd were 9-11 family members. >> i tried to do a lot of listening and there was people there that genuinely didn't come for hate, they just were-- they lost somebody. i'm so sorry for their loss, but i had nothing to do with it. my community did not have anything to do with their loss. >> after three hours of debate, the community board voted 29-1 to support building a mosque 600
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feet from where the world trade center number one stood. >> narrator: the ground zero mosque story ignited a fevered debate on fox news. >> good idea? bad idea? >> it's a disrespectful idea, it's a slap in the face. >> and you're going to put a monument to the terrorists at the site of 9-11? >> this is an opportunity to learn. i'm sorry, that's not the way america works. >> you don't pick and choose... >> this should be an opportunity... >> that as a war... >> this is an opportunity to learn. >> question. >> we're all 9-11 families. >> you want me to answer? >> they just took the hit for us! that's all. >> okay. >> at that point, there was no turning back. that i had to try to do whatever i had to do as a human being to make this happen. >> not at ground zero! >> narrator: overnight, the location of el-gamal's project on park place became a battleground. the story grew and grew. >> it caught fire. and i didn't know what to do. it was never meant to turn into
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a 3.7 trillion media impressions on the internet, the number one story of 2010. that was not a plan. we did not plan that! >> whatever happened to their respects and sensitivities to those who lost their lives by the atrocities committed by radical muslims in the name of their religion while they were screaming, "allahu ackbar." >> you think goal of this mosque is to build it as a triumph? >> a victory mosque. >> the radical islamists who are triumphalists, who want to dominate the rest of us, need to be confronted by us, and this mosque is an illustration of what they're trying to do. >> narrator: to el-gamal and imam feisal, the outcry came as a shock. >> caught completely off guard. completely off guard. >> narrator: feisal abdul rauf, a moderate, pro-american imam, found himself reinvented on fox news as a dangerous radical. >> do you believe, along with feisal abdul rauf, that there should be restrictions on freedom of speech and sharia,
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islamic law, in the united states with the stonings and the amputations and the oppression of women and the warfare against unbelievers? >> he's a very, very staunch muslim, that's for sure. >> where's the mosque? you go right here... there's hamas! see, it's in the food chain! >> the guy who will not deem hamas to be a terror organization... >> sounds to me like somebody who ought to be investigated. >> i have condemned hamas, i have condemned terrorism. i was invited to speak to all 1,200 fbi agents in new york to- - not only to explain to them about islam, but to explore how we can work with the law enforcement agencies to make sure that any potential radicals or terrorists in our mosques would be filtered out. we are very much aware that there is a radical extremist element in our faith community. >> why there? why put a provocative megamosque at the cemetery? >> why there? because in the united states of
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america... >> it's a community center, right, daisy? >> yes, it's a community center with a prayer space inside it. >> with a prayer space. >> mm-hmm. >> a prayer space is a mosque. it's a mosque. >> a mini-mosque. >> yes, a mini-mosque. >> but when you hear, like, "13- story mosque"... >> narrator: confusion mounted over what the project was and why it was there. >> i don't understand the need to put it there. >> imam, could you explain, what's the need for putting it there? >> well, first of all, this is not a mosque. it's a community center just like the 92nd street y is. imam feisal had nothing to do with picking the location. and that goes to the root of the problem, that there wasn't any media training. he was thrust into something that he was not prepared for. >> if we moved from that location, the story will be thau the radicals have taken over the discourse. >> narrator: the weeks of unrelenting pressure took their a rift was opening up between el-gamal and the imam, even as the president came to their defense. >> i believe that muslims have
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the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country, and that includes the right to build a place of worship in a community center on private property in lower manhattan. >> i couldn't believe it. i mean, i remember, i called up my father and i was crying, and i was like, "dad, president obama made a comment on my project." and it was just exhilarating. >> the president of the united states of america stood by us right now. >> narrator: as the controversy reached new heights, imam feisal left on a pre-arranged tour of the middle east, sponsored by the state department. >> imam feisal left the country. imam feisal just left the country. like, he left the country! it was bizarre! bizarre to go and speak on a tour, to speak at universities. it didn't make any sense to me. and i was angry with him.
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i was like, "why did you leave at this point? why would you leave me in the middle of this?" >> narrator: there was also a fundamental disagreement between the imam and el-gamal. >> imam feisal kept referring to this as an interfaith project. and i didn't understand what an interfaith project is. i wouldn't have-- that wouldn't have turned me on. i'm not a humanitarian, i'm a capitalist. i'm a capitalist and i do good things for my community. >> ever heard of a man named sharif el-gamal? you have now. roll it! >> sharif el-gamal? why won't you talk to us, sir? why are you running? >> narrator: with imam feisal off the scene, fox news hunted down el-gamal. >> the pressure that i started getting was incredible. i came so close to my breaking point as a man.
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>> narrator: across america, the ground zero mosque had not played well in muslim communities. >> the park 51 project was really a major pr disaster. >> narrator: imam muhammad musri is the leader of ten mosques in central florida. >> to me, as a muslim leader, hurting the feelings of so many people, disrespecting, walking all over their opinions and feelings, to try to build whatever that building is, no matter how holy it is, is not islam. >> narrator: musri would get drawn into a strange sideshow. the pastor of a small church in florida declared he would burn the koran unless the ground zero mosque was moved. >> the ground zero mosque we felt was a good bargaining tool. there is very much of a concern that it's not only a mosque but
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some type of a victory statement, a victory mosque. >> narrator: musri went to see the pastor. >> i said, "well, let me tell you this, pastor jones, i myself disagree with the project beingu built near ground zero. and i feel, as you do, that it should be at least moved." >> narrator: imam musri tried unsuccessfully to contact imam feisal in new york. they never spoke. but pastor jones would later say that musri told him that feisal had agreed to move the ground zero mosque. whatever the truth, they had a deal. >> the imam has agreed to move the mosque. we have agreed to cancel our event on saturday. >> narrator: that saturday, the pastor did not burn the koran as he had threatened. but for muslims across america, the ground zero mosque and its imam had become a liability. >> imam feisal abdul rauf was
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presented to the american mainstream as a genuine mainstream imam who commands a large following. but for the millions of american muslims, he is not our voice. >> narrator: by winter, the relationship between imam feisal and el-gamal had finally collapsed. >> this vision is my vision, you know? if i'm separated from it, the vision is separated. the concept is mine. >> without the visionary behind the vision, it's not clear that the vision can be realized. >> we need to come up with what our message is once and for all. where we're not reacting to our friend imam feisal, right? >> narrator: in january, el- gamal ousted his former mentor from the project. >> i felt a sense of betrayal.
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he's a control freak. he has sought to control that which is not his domain of expertise. we have spoken. but there's a certain nature that is unchangeable. and that makes me sad. >> narrator: after months on the defensive, el-gamal began fighting back. but time and money were not on his side. >> i'm all over the place and i'm not focused. you know a shark eats little seals, right? that's what i'm used to doing well. i'm not being a shark right now. so it's a little confusing for me right now.
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i want-- our main focus right now needs to be awareness and fundraising. you know, last night-- and i have a lot of sleepless nights because i think about this, okay?-- but they're good sleepless nights. >> it's simple. this company is going to erect a building 14 stories tall. the top 12 floors will be a community center, the lower two floors will be a prayer space. >> but, right now, we need to get funds, to pay the people, to pay you, to pay the people that are working here on a regular basis, to pay our debts, to pay the expenses. >> yes. >> does that make sense? >> it makes sense. >> okay? attitude check! we're going to make it happen. >> right. >> insha'allah. >> all this depends on money. we're listing a lot of tasks but we don't have money. what are we going do about fundraising so that all this can actually work? because we only have two staff members right now. >> narrator: in early 2011, park 51's staff consisted of two students: john lichten, a non-
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muslim from new york, and janan delgado, a columbia university graduate from ecuador. the management was el-gamal and his business partner nour mousa. >> people still think that we are this massive thing that the media make us out to be. when, in reality, our organization is very small. vision, mission, strategy and tasks. it's stressful, it's hard, it doesn't please anybody. i don't know who's happy with this project at this point. >> and you're going to invite very specific people to partake in that. >> that's right. >> this idea today has no funds. i'm at a deficit. i'm running. it doesn't work. i don't even know how we've gotten this far. >> we need to raise $2 million in 16 weeks. takbir! >> allahu akbar. >> and we need all of your help.
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we can't do this on our own. this house and this mesgid and this community center is only going to be built insha'allah with your full involvement as well. >> narrator: the american muslim community at large had turned its back on el-gamal. >> we are a fabric of this society, and we need to be out there, and don't take this for granted. we are all out of the closet right now. that was a little humorous joke but we need to be out there and we need to show our faces. where's the muslim community? where are the people that are like me? you know, today i would expect that we'd have a line out the door of volunteers, of people saying "thank you. thank for standing up for us. thank you. thank you for not backing down. thank you." we don't have that. >> you know, i'm like, "where are my people?
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where are they? don't they understand? don't they see what we can potentially do here?" and that is the... and that hurts. >> the most sensitive thing about this entire project has been how the 9-11 families feel about us being there. it's problematic. because on the one hand, you have to take those emotions seriously, and you have to respect them. you have to see where they're coming from. they lost people. it's not a joke. on the other hand, if you accept the wrong idea that muslims and islam are responsible for 9-11, then what's going to come after that? how far is going to be far enough? until when are you going to continue having to apologize or
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be treated differently? >> narrator: lee hanson had lost his son, his daughter-in-law and his granddaughter on the second plane. he came to talk to el-gamal. >> she was two and a half when they took that plane ride. i used to sit back and hold her in my arms like this. and i can't tell you how many times that, when i'm sitting in a chair like that, that my arm goes like this and i can actually feel here there-- i mean, feel her presence. and then she was really growing up to be a beautiful little girl. >> wow. >> and i saw them just before 9- 11 and i said, just, on the clear, i said, "you know, christine, i love you." and she said, "i love you, too, papa."
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and i said, "aren't we lucky we have each other to love?" and she put out her arms, and a great big smile and did a happy dance. and i didn't know that was the last time i was going to see them. if you go around the united states today, there are people who don't know too much more about the issue except that they see it as a victory mosque. and i think it may be unfortunate for you, i mean, because your story is compelling and i understand it, but... >> you know, lee... >> the whole approach to it-- the whole approach to it was so poor that i think it's poisoned the idea. i don't think there'll ever be a mosque built there. my site is not on ground zero. it's two blocks from the world trade center. >> yeah, we could argue that out 'til the end of time. >> i... i... >> but for me, it is hallowed ground. >> i completely understand your
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perspective. i understand it and i respect it. i never associated my faith, and i do not even today associate my faith or my community, with the criminal acts of 9-11 that were committed in my city. >> of course not. you talked about all the experiences you had from your side and your feelings, and i believe you and i believe you are sincere, but that didn't extend to us. >> i didn't know about you. >> it didn't extend to... well, there have been a lot of 9-11 organizations, you know, to... >> but now it is my responsibility, and it is a commitment that i'm going to make in this project. >> it's too late. you know, it's not going to make a difference. the harm has been done, to have a mosque there. you have the right to do it. i say you have the right to do it. everyone says you have the right to do it. but when you have the right to do something, giving up that right for a noble reason is what
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heroes are made of. and i'd like to see you come out of this a hero. because i believe what you say. i believe you're sincere, i really do. i believe what you say, i believe you're sincere. build a mosque, because if it's needed, it's needed. no problem. >> it's needed. >> yeah. so build it someplace else. >> you know, unfortunately, this is new york city and it's not like you can just go and say "i want to do something here or here or here." you do not just get to just pick a piece of real-estate and move. well, i sincerely want to continue this dialogue and i want you to meet my wife and my kids. >> i'd love to do that once the issue is settled. >> how could you not be aware? what planet do you come from? that has been one of the major criticisms. but sharif never knew that he had to apologize for 9-11.
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he's been privileged. he is blonde. blue eyes. if he's with his family or by himself, you would never really be able to tell that he is muslim. he has not been the target of hate and bigotry in the same way as many people who look muslim. he was not made to feel that way every single day of his life. like we are. like i am. >> stop the hate. stop the hate. stop the hate. stop the hate. stop the hate. stop the hate. ( cheers ) >> narrator: the argument over the ground zero mosque is now being echoed across america. >> sharia doesn't love thy neighbor! >> narrator: vandalism and opposition to mosque
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construction is being reported in two dozen states. >> don't put it here! there are hundreds of mosques in this city, there are thousands of mosques in this country, why here? >> you are being used. you are useful idiots. you are tools for the muslim american society. >> i encourage you to continue fighting. they will try to wear you down. they will try to wear you down! listen to me! you cannot stop! >> the vast majority of americans have not had experience with muslims. in fact, the only experience of muslims that they've had is through the television camera. and the only muslims that have gotten attention on television are the radical muslims. it was the men of al qaeda that were responsible for 9-11 and the death of my wife and everybody else's relative. it was not the entire muslim religion.
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>> my whole motivation behind doing all of this was to build a place where i could instill my values as an american and as a muslim in my children. and i want them to have an identity, i want them to be proud of who they are, i want them to be confident. a lot of those things right now are lacking within our community and it's very frustrating. it's really, really hard. to really put your foot down for something that you believe in and you think maybe you're five years too early.
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maybe you're just... maybe you're five years too early. >> narrator: coming up next on this special edition of frontline... what will it take to bring cruise ship tourists off the resort to visit the real haiti? >> there is not one place in the carribbean that you can find this. if we reach 170 people a day, this whole town will change. >> narrator: an optimist in haiti is next. >> davidson: now, i'm feeling you're a little less crazy.
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>> davidson: i've been reporting in haiti for "frontline" and npr's "planet money" since last year's earthquake. i'm a business reporter, and i keep hearing all these ideas about how this horribly broken economy could recover, could even grow. one idea which is far from the chaos of port-au-prince seemed so ridiculous, so unlikely, i decided i had to visit the northern town of milot to try to figure it out. lionel pressoir is the man with the idea. he thinks that he can turn this small, poor town into a major international tourism destination. he borrowed more than $100,000 to build what will one day become milot's first tourist- friendly restaurant.
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even though, as he'll happily admit, he's never seen a traditional tourist here. so, right now, you have no real tourism market. >> none. not really. >> davidson: and you're building this big restaurant to accommodate hundreds of tourists every day. >> are you trying to say i'm crazy? yes! but, you know, i believe in being a pioneer. milot is a town that we are trying to make into a cultural and historical mecca, and somebody's got to start somewhere. >> davidson: cultural mecca? this town definitely has its charms for a particularly adventurous traveler. but most tourists would not come anywhere near here. there's a hospital still combating a cholera outbreak. there's just a stench in the street. >> this would look very, very poor to you. >> davidson: but lionel says, forget all that and follow me to milot's great tourist attractions.
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that is just beautiful. our first stop is a 200-year-old citadel, up there on the hill. ... the mountains and the water, it is just gorgeous. the citadel was the result of another crazy dream. and this man, henri christophe, was the dreamer. he was born was born a slave in the 1700s, and he grew up to help overthrow the french colonialists in 1803. he later became the first king of haiti. >> they want independence so much that they had the will power to build something like this. >> davidson: the king, like all haitians then was terrified the french would come back with a bigger army and enslave the country again. and he wanted to show the world that this newly free black nation was the equal of any other. so, he had this majestic fortress built on the highest mountain around. below, he built his grand home, the palais sans souci, the palace without worry. this must have been a guard tower?
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it was largely destroyed in haiti's last big earthquake, in 1842. >> down here it was just to receive dignitaries. >> davidson: right now, i'm feeling you're a little less crazy. i mean, i... i can feel how attractive this is, how you can see lots and lots of tourists. i mean, i think anyone who... who cares about history, you know, this is a place where you would want to come to. >> oh, absolutely. there's no doubt about it, and there is not one place in the caribbean that you can go and find this. >> davidson: when lionel was a kid, in the 1950s, haiti was a hot tourism destination. he remembers seeing the fancy cruise ships filled with rich americans land at the charming capital, port-au-prince. since then, of course, haiti, has suffered decades of misrule, an economy that has basically collapsed, and to top it all off, the earthquake.
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but if the tourists return, lionel says, so would haiti's economy. >> yes! if we reach 170 people a day, i mean, this whole town will change. economically, it's unbelievable. >> davidson: so how in the world is lionel going to find 170 tourists a day? >> welcome poolside for our international men's belly flop competition. somebody make some noise! ( cheers ) >> davidson: here's something that surprised me: cruise ships do still come to haiti. but they don't go to port-au- prince anymore. they only visit a private, secluded beach run by the cruise line royal caribbean. it's called labadee. >> there's lots of beach areas. the whole island is really beach. >> davidson: while at sea, passengers go visit the excursions desk to figure out what they'll do when the ship docks. >> your parasail is at 2:00 right now, guys, okay?
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>> davidson: tourists pay dozens, even hundreds, of dollars to go snorkeling or on a zipline or on a sightseeing trip. about ten miles from the site is the citadel. right now, royal caribbean doesn't offer tours outside of the protected enclave of labadee. ...the largest fort in the western hemisphere... if they did, would people pay to see the citadel and the palace? >> my opinion is that i want some activity stuff. most of the people i asked said, "nah, probably not." they're on a vacation, not a history class. wave jet, i want parasailing. i want all of that stuff. >> davidson: royal caribbean built this private resort in 1986. it's only ten miles from milot and the citadel, but it might as well be on island thousands of miles away. i have to admit, i laughed, at first, when i learned that one of the excursions-- at 18 bucks a person-- is a historic walking tour of a private beach built by
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the cruise line 25 years ago. >> 1803, november. we just kicked the napoleon's army out. >> davidson: but the tour was actually really good. and made me realize that when people learn about haiti's incredible history, they do want to know more. >> napoleon lost so many people here. you know what he did? he was so broke that he sold louisiana to thomas jefferson. you've heard about the louisiana purchase? >> davidson: royal caribbean got some bad press last year after the earthquake for running a private fantasy land for rich americans, so close, but so cut off from so much misery. but royal caribbean argues we're helping the country. and i have to say i agree. most haitians i've talked to say this is a huge boon to haiti, there's millions in investments, hundreds of jobs. in a sense, lionel's dream is just to extend the area that benefits from labadee a few miles more. get these tourists into the country, get them to milot. so, now, if i was selling you tickets to that citadel, you'd
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be a little more inclined... >> absolutely. absolutely. and it seems like it could happen. >> davidson: thomas and anoinette went from no interest at all to excitement about the citadel and haiti in one short history tour. >> like i said, when he went as far as the louisiana purchase and different things like that, i mean, wow! >> davidson: do you think you'd come back? >> absolutely. >> oh yeah. >> absolutely. >> we're already planning the trip. >> absolutely. absolutely. >> behind this mountain that you see there is labadee. >> davidson: okay. on the other side. >> on the other side. >> davidson: now, it's come down to this. these ten miles between labadee and lionel's restaurant. i feel like, if i'm you, it's like, they're right there. just come. just come. >> that's right. it is. it is. 10,000 people behind that mountain. >> davidson: how do you get those tourists to take that ten- mile journey? royal caribbean says they're ready, they're eager, they want to send them, just as soon as there is a usable road between
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labadee and the citadel. lionel's entire dream comes down to this: he needs a road. >> and that's the priority for us. you know, we need to build a road. we need to make rules and regulations and make sure the tourist is comfortable, the tourist is safe. >> davidson: it might seem like a simple project, but building the road would mean a real transformation of how business is done here in the capital, port-au-prince. there had been plans to build this very road for years. but they were always shelved to deal with other priorities. then came the earthquake. >> an enormous amount can be done that will change the lives of the people of haiti. >> davidson: in the aftermath, a lot of important people said things would be different this time. >> unique collaborative effort that is... >> davidson: the international community pledged $10 billion to not only rebuild haiti, but to
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create long-term economic development. the government crafted a plan with tourism as a key economic pillar. finally, it seemed like the money was there. and the political will. a mini gold rush had brought developers and housing advocates from all over the world to get a piece of the rebuilding action. >> so we support homeowner- driven programs. >> davidson: so many kept telling me that lionel is right. building that road, bringing those tourists, is one of the quickest, cheapest ways to create jobs and economic growth. >> sustainability in the long term. >> davidson: and it would cost around $20 million. that's one third of 1% of the money pledged to haiti. but with the earthquake came an even longer list of priorities. there's still debris everywhere in the capital. and the budget to fully clean the whole city is hundreds of millions of dollars. now, cleaning up the damage is of course essential, but it only gets things back to where it was.
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it can't help the country's economy grow like tourism might. >> tourism is going to continue to be a huge, is going to continue to increase by leaps and bounds in the world as... as a part of the world economy. >> davidson: but, he says, the commission, which coordinates much of haiti's rebuilding, isn't working on the road. >> debris removal is the most important priority. the commission has two problems: one, a huge list of urgent priorities. and, two, they've received little of the money that other governments have promised to give them. the debris removal budget remains horribly under funded. >> we're not ruling it out, but right now is it more important to me in the short term than debris removal or housing? >> davidson: where do you expect the money to come from? everyone in haiti has this problem: huge priorities, no money. >> i told you that. haiti does not have the money to build the road. you say at the beginning that haiti is the poorest country of the caribbean. how can the poorest country, which has people starving, and you're talking about road
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construction? i went to the us embassy. the us has pledged more than a billion dollars to rebuild haiti. more than the haitian government's entire annual budget. >>, shelter... >> davidson: but, understandably, they, too, have other priorities. >> the earthquake pulled us. we had to focus exclusively on meeting immediate needs. and a lot of the work that we're doing post-earthquake grew out of that. >> davidson: before the earthquake, usaid allocated half a million dollars to repair an old dirt road from labadee to the citadel. but that project, which is going on now, won't make the road passable for royal caribbean tour buses. another plan, by the interamerican development bank, pledges a decent amount, but it's only half of what engineers say is needed for a tourist- friendly road. it seemed to me like a missed opportunity. i don't expect tourists from labadee to eat at lionel's
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restaurant anytime soon. the citadel was built to embody the pride in this new nation. and it's still a perfect metaphor for the country: beautiful and broken, a source of hope and despair. like so much in haiti, lionel's dream seems simple, obvious, and impossible. >> you know, there are so many things we have to do. it's all at once such a small little thing and an absurdly great fantasy. >> davidson: but you just keep going? >> i have to keep going. >> davidson: lionel says the citadel shows that haitians can become the first nation of freed slaves, the first independent black nation in the world. haitians can do the impossible. >> they left us something. we have to take advantage of what they left us so that we can start building. it takes a long time, but maybe i won't see it. my grandfather didn't see it, my great-grandfather didn't see it,
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but i'm hoping that my grandchildren will see it. a long time is fine, but out of the life of a country, a long time is nothing. >> next time... >> anthrax. >> anthrax. >> another anthrax case. >> we could narrow the investigation to a very rare strain of anthrax. >> there were really two sides of dr. ivins. >> a scientist that's gone rabid. >> seven years, millions of dollars... >> they'd brag if they got their man... >> he killed himself before we could get to him. >> where is the smoking gun? where is the proof? >> if dr. ivins wasn't the perpetrator, that person is stl out there. >> narrator: "the anthrax files." >> frontline continues online. more on rebuilding tourism in haiti and what recent polling says... >> are you muslim? >> yeah. >> as-salaam alaikum.
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>> ...about american muslims. reflections from a former park 51 staff member and extended interviews with sharif el-gamal... >> where are my people? >> and pamela geller. >> i encourage you to continue fighting. >> follow frontline on facebook and twitter, or join the discussion at >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major funding is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. and by reva and david logan. committed to investigative journalism as the guardian of the public interest. additional funding is provided by the park foundation. dedicated to heightening public
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